Director Hirokazu Kore-eda has nothing but good words for the actors in his latest film 'Broker'

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda [CJ ENM]

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda had nothing but singsong praises for actor Song Kang-ho who took home the Best Actor Award for his performance in the director's first Korean-language film “Broker.”

“Broker” revolves around two baby brokers Sang-hyun and Dong-soo, portrayed by Song Kang-ho and Gang Dong-won, as they discreetly take a baby from a baby box, where babies can be anonymously dropped off to be cared for by others. When they are discovered by the baby’s mother So-young, the three embark on a journey to find a proper home for the baby.

Kore-eda has repeatedly mentioned throughout press events that the narrative of “Broker” had stemmed from Song.

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda and actor Song Kang-ho pose for photos at the 75th Cannes International Film Festival for the film "Broker." [CJ ENM]

“I loved him in the roles of films such as ‘Joint Security Area’ [2000], ‘Memories of Murder’ [2003], ‘Secret Sunshine’ [2007] — oh, and I can’t leave out ‘A Taxi Driver’ [2017],” Kore-eda said at a press interview Friday at a cafe in Samcheong-dong, central Seoul. “Fundamentally, Song’s greatness lies in the humanities of the characters he portrays without ruining the narrative in each of the films. I think Song is exceptionally delicate when bringing out the person’s secularity. And Song’s mundaneness even conclusively leads to salvation. For instance, in ‘Secret Sunshine,’ Song’s presence becomes a redemption [for others], but his capacity to help stays within a very humane and mundane level. The materialism and sanctity co-exist harmoniously in his characters, which I think is Song’s greatest and most astonishing appeal.

“At every take of the shooting, Song always showed fresh performances,” Kore-eda elaborated. “This is an enormous talent and takes a great deal of concentration. For most actors, when you shoot the same scenes, their performance, too, becomes repetitive. But for Song, no matter how many times we repeat the scenes, his acting stays fresh.”

A scene from "Broker" [CJ ENM]

For actor Lee Ji-eun, also known as singer IU, the director was captivated by her performance in tvN drama series “My Mister” (2018), which he said he came across as he was binging on Netflix during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“To tell you the truth, ‘My Mister’ isn’t the type of genre that I would generally watch,” he said. “But there is this camera director with whom I’ve worked for a long time — he’s an 83-year-old man who insisted that I had to watch the series. He kept emphasizing that ‘IU is the best, you can’t help but cry [at her scenes].’ I thought he’d cried because he’s grown soft with age, but I found myself crying too as I watched the series.”

In “Broker,” the distinction between good and bad is unclear. From the third person perspective, none of the characters may be conventionally “good” — Sang-hyun and Dong-soo take babies and sell them for profit, and So-young is a mother who abandoned her baby. Kore-eda peels off the exterior layers of the characters and invites the audience to look into their individual narratives.

Kore-eda wanted to dive into the social problem of baby boxes and researched the facilities in Japan and Korea. For the film, Kore-eda also met with and interviewed people who grew up in orphanages, the parents of adopted children, lawyers and police detectives who worked on cases related to baby brokers.

“What I noticed through my research is that the strict labeling and criticism were directed toward the mother,” he said. “Through my film, I wanted to discuss who is truly responsible for such happenings. In Japan, too, there are facilities similar to baby boxes, and there certainly are differences of opinions toward them as well. However, I felt that regarding issues revolving around children, especially regarding domestic violence and babies left at baby boxes, society tends to criticize the mother. There are no mentions of the other parent, the father, in such news.”

The cast of "Broker" and Kore-eda after the closing ceremony of the 75th Cannes International Festival on May 28. [CJ ENM]

Kore-eda’s next film takes him back to Japan again, but the director said that there are still many Korean actors that he’s itching to work with in the future.

“My next project is a Japanese film set in an elementary school, and as for now, there are no other projects [besides that] set for the future,” he said. “There are still many actors in Korea with whom I hope to work, and if there is an opportunity, I wish to work in Korea again. But I don’t want to peg names. It’s more likely to happen, I think, if I refrain from saying anything.”